Hope for Every Day

This past week, something pretty exciting happened that I have been eagerly waiting to share. For the very first time, I said my name smoothly, not just once, but several times in a row! For someone who has dreaded introductions for years, the joy that flooded my heart each time completely overwhelmed me. I couldn’t stop smiling. I had never known what it actually felt like to tell someone my name without an intense struggle first. It may not happen again for awhile, or… maybe it will. That is all in the Lord’s hands. But either way, I will never stop praising Him for these special moments in time.

Looking back on these few instances, I am intrigued as to why I suddenly did not struggle after so many years of fighting to say my name. I have been contemplating whether I did something differently without realizing itlike relaxing my vocal cords more, releasing all the tension in my lips, or sliding into the M’ sound instead of pushing it outso that I can learn from these experiences and try to implement the same strategies in the future. As one individual so wisely stated, people who stutter should absolutely enjoy their moments of fluency, but they must not forget to learn from them as well. Sometimes, studying my fluent speech can provide such valuable insight into why I may be struggling at other times.

If you haven’t already noticed, I couldn’t be HAPPIER about this long-awaited breakthrough. All I could even say in that moment was, Thank you, Lord! It was a breakthrough because it showed me that I do have the ability to say my name fluently. It will just take some creativity and patience on my part to discover what strategies might help me achieve more fluency on my name on a regular basis.

Right as I was starting to lose hope and beginning to fear my name even more each day…the Lord used this wonderful experience to remind me to never, ever lose hope. I never imagined that something as simple as my name could teach me so much about life. Absolutely, the stuttering journey can bring deep sadness sometimes. After all, communication is crucial to thriving in this world. Nothing currently in my life is more difficult than fighting to order food, or to make a phone call, or to ask a question.

However, I would not trade its sadness at the expense of all its incredible joys for the world. What a beautiful journey this truly is! I have not always felt this way, and it would be dishonest for me to claim that I necessarily feel this way every moment of every day. Some days, I just want to cry, especially when I feel my fear holding me back in certain situations. But overall…the joys far outweigh the sadness. When those times of sadness do come, I have my amazing family and friends, and most of all, I have the Lord.

I fully realize that I will probably stutter for the rest of my life, at least to some extent. But in the Lord, I have hope for every single day, and for the rest of my life.

“I am not like other people. I must think differently, act differently, live differently—because I stutter. . .I have known all my life a great sorrow and a great hope together, and they have made me the kind of person I am. An awkward tongue has molded my life.” ~Wendell Johnson, Ph.D.


Just Be Kind

Some of the things that stuttering teaches me are difficult to put into words, but I would still like to try to briefly share one of these things today. It’s simply about kindness.

Stuttering shows me, over and over again, that kindness in this world is not lost. Even in the midst of a world that, sadly, seems to be filled with hate, kindness is not gone. For every act of hate, I believe there are just as many acts of love that go unseen. And I believe this with all my heart, because. . .my stuttering has often shown me the tenderest sides of others. I learn so much from speaking to other people, because how some of them react humbles me deeply and motivates me to greater kindness in my own life.


And so, when we receive this gift of kindness from others, how could we possibly keep it to ourselves? Pass it on! And when you don’t experience kindness in a certain situation, let that motivate you even more to share kindness with a hurting world…in every way possible, in every place possible, with every person possible. 

Let’s just be kind today…and every day.

Much love, Makenzie

An Open Letter to My Family

To my mom, my dad, and my sister: 

Thank you. Thank you for supporting me on this roller coaster journey called stuttering. I could not have asked for a more wonderful family. You are my sunshine and bright blue sky in every day! Sometimes, just thinking about what a blessing it is to spend this life with each one of you leaves me in awe. I don’t deserve any of you. Thank you for being my biggest cheerleaders and my dearest friends.

Thank you for listening. I often try to imagine what it must be like to be on the other side. Thank you for being so patient with me, and so kind, even when it takes me a long time to ask you a question. You don’t ever interrupt me or even finish my sentences (unless I’m really stuck, in which case it is actually a relief to me when you do!). I know it must be hard sometimes. Thank you for always making me feel as if I am not speaking any differently than anyone else.

Thank you for sacrificing countless hours over the years taking me to speech therapy appointments. And thank you for being there the first time I did some public speaking a couple months ago. Thank you for caring so much.

Thank you for helping me in the everyday moments of life, like when you discreetly help me out with introductions. (Nobody ever even knows that you intentionally said my name for me. It’s our own special secret! ) Thank you for helping me with restaurant orders and doctor’s appointments, and so much more. It’s not that you speak for me. It’s just your smile of encouragement and the love in your eyes. You gently push me to speak for myself, but you also silently let me know that you are cheering me on as I speak. Thank you for believing in me, but most importantly, for believing in the power of Christ in me.

Thank you for being there when I just need someone to talk to. Whether I’m nervous about an upcoming speaking situation or just anxious about the future, you all have such a special way of bringing everything back into perspective and encouraging me to keep pressing on. Thank you for always pointing me back to Christ and reminding me that my stuttering does not define me.

I hope and pray that I can be as much of an encouragement to you all as you are to me each day. My love for each one of you stretches up to the highest star and all the way back! And those times that my words can’t quite express this to you, I hope my actions do…because loving you is one of the sweetest gifts in my life.

Lots of love, Kenzie

For His Glory

Even in my wildest dreams, I never could have imagined myself standing in front of a mirror again with a book in my hand, slowly reading out loud and observing how my mouth forms different sounds. It’s kind of like going back to the days when I was just learning how to talk or how to read. The feeling is almost surreal. Surprisingly though, I have actually started to enjoy my practice time, although it sometimes feels strange and even a little uncomfortable. At eighteen years old, reading out loud to yourself can be—I  am searching for the right words—painfully humbling. Throughout our lives, I believe God often uses certain situations to humble us and to redirect our gaze towards Christ. I have no doubt that this is what He is trying to do through my stutter. In the moments when we feel the smallest, God finally has His rightful place in our hearts. He deserves all the glory and all of the praise, always. 

With the help of two fantastic books produced by the Stuttering Foundation, I’ve begun a new journey of self-therapy. For now, I’m just in the first stages of observing how my body responds to stuttering and identifying exactly what happens when I stutter. Once I know these two things, I can start taking some conscious steps toward curbing those responses and deciding what forms of therapy might be most effective for me. As I’ve mentioned a few times, my name is one of the hardest words for me to say. Only in the past few weeks though, as I’ve practiced reading out loud, have I realized how much tension actually grips my mouth when I try to form that ‘M’ sound. So every once in awhile, I repeat my name out loud multiple times in front of a mirror, watching my lips and trying to release the tension as soon as I feel it, if I can. Since the tension is completely involuntary, it can be hard to release sometimes, even when I try really hard. One of these days, I’m hoping my name will come out the first time…and that will be an amazing moment to praise God for!

Because it’s a neurological problem, stuttering cannot be completely cured. However, with lots of practice, someone who stutters can learn how to stutter more easily. By ‘easily,’ I mean stuttering without nearly as much bodily effort and tension. Basically, I’m on a journey to retrain my brain how to talk. (Sounds kind of daunting, huh? 🙂 ) Hopefully, as I constantly practice talking without tension and relaxing my muscles, my brain will start to develop a new speech pattern that will make speaking a little easier.

Setting aside time in each day to work on speech may not be what I envisioned for my life…but it was always God’s plan for my life. Before I was even born, God chose to make me part of that 1% of the population that stutters. Sometimes, there is nothing more painful than standing in front of someone, unable to say your own name. But in that moment of stuttering, when the ache in my heart to speak seems unbearable, God’s grace and comfort is never far behind. Just knowing that my stutter is a direct result of the loving hand of God heals that ache and brings wonderful peace to my heart.

Nothing takes God by surprise; He masterfully orchestrates every detail of our lives for our good, and most importantly, for His glory. 

“He knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. . .he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.  For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me.” ~Job 23: 10, 13-14~

Much love, Makenzie

Choosing Thankfulness

Do your emotions ever get the best of you? Twice in the past two months, I have found myself standing in the kitchen with tears tumbling down my cheeks, my mom standing on the other side of the counter giving me counsel and encouraging me with God’s Word. She has such a special gift for making everyone feel better. I wasn’t sad…just a little overwhelmed. However, the purpose of this post is not to focus on how overwhelmed I was feeling, but to write about how thankful I am for the support of my family, and most importantly, for the grace of God that strengthens us in all of our weakest moments.

The past couple months, I have struggled with some anxiety about my future. I am quickly approaching exciting milestones in my life, like getting my license, applying for my first job, thinking about college, and graduating from high school! Thinking about all of these things thrills my heart with eager anticipation. But thinking about it also makes me more aware of my speech disfluency and how much it affects my life, not necessarily in a bad way, but in a particularly significant way. Verbal communication is essential to life; but yet, communication is the most daunting obstacle I face each day.

Fear can wreck so much havoc in our hearts if we do not take those thoughts captive to Christ. Just the other night, I shared with my mom how I had been thinking about my first job interview someday. When I reach out my hand to shake the interviewer’s hand, the first thing I will need to say is my name. My name…one of the hardest words for me to say. Ok, Lord, I will definitely need Your help to make it through this when the day comes! Could I maybe just tell him ‘Kenzie’ since that ‘M’ is SO difficult for me? 🙂  Before I know it, I’m dwelling on thoughts like this all day long, instead of resting in God. Eventually all of those thoughts just become too much for me to hold in anymore. In those moments, my parents are always, always there for me. I love them both with all my heart, and more. 

Finding a job will not be easy. Giving college presentations will not be easy. Communicating effectively throughout my life will not be easy. But God promises us that His grace is always sufficient: “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). I really don’t know what my life will look like with a stutter, but that’s OK. What I do know is that God’s grace will be sufficient for every day.

Sometimes, the struggle to communicate is unbelievably discouraging and overwhelming, especially the struggle to say my own name. But I must make the choice not to dwell on all of the difficult moments, and instead, to replace my fear with thankfulness. I can thank God for His amazing grace, for all the times that I am able to express my thoughts, and for all of the exciting things coming up in my life soon.

There will always be plenty of things to worry about or to be discouraged about in life, but if you really think about it, there is often much more to be thankful for.

much love, makenzie

Reach for the Stars

He shook my hand and did not let go until I had gotten my name out. Nobody had ever done that before. Seconds passed. He smiled kindly and said, “Take your time.”  Right then, I knew that I was about to experience something special. 

On Thursday night, I went to my very first NSA (National Stuttering Association) chapter meeting. I had been dreaming about going to one for years, so when the day finally came, I was absolutely thrilled. I had never met anyone else who stuttered. I always knew that there were thousands of people out there walking this same path with me, but I had never shaken their hands or heard their voices. I knew that it would be special going to one of these meetings, but I never could have prepared myself for what it would actually feel like to sit in a room full of people who understand each other so well that we could probably finish each other’s sentences. It was an experience that I will never forget.

I met eleven people on Thursday who inspired me beyond words with their courage, tenacity, and zeal for life. As I listened to each of their stories, I was reminded that stuttering does not have to define what we achieve in life. None of them had let their stuttering keep them from chasing their dreams and doing what they love. They saw their stuttering as a gift that gave them so much more compassion for others. Since I was one of the youngest people in the group, most of the people there had made it through college already and were thriving in jobs that they loved. Just being with them and hearing their stories filled my heart with so much hope for the future. They were living proof that no star is too far out of reach.

During the meeting, I had the opportunity to share my own story with the group. As I spoke, I experienced a sense of freedom that I had never felt in all my life. In that room, we did not have to worry about how someone would react to us. When we looked up, all we saw were kind smiling faces. There was no fear, no hesitation, no doubts.  There was just love, and kindness, and friendship. It was like being with family.

Every one of us stuttered very differently, and I found such beauty in that. I loved listening to every unique voice. We were all so different, but yet, so alike because we were bound together by our mutual experiences. We talked about how we stutter so much more when we are tired or stressed and how we know right when we get up in the morning whether it will be a good or bad “speaking day.” We even laughed together about how hard it always is to say our names. We understood each other so well. I felt as if I was talking to people I had known forever. I felt HOME.

Words can not describe how I felt leaving that meeting. My heart felt like it would burst, and I was smiling down to my soul. I am not alone on this journey…and I never have been. Not only do I have the Lord walking beside me, but I have thousands of friends who stutter all over the world. I just haven’t met some of them yet.

Several of them remarked, “You know, life is still so good, in spite of everything.” Yes, it truly is. Never let your struggles, whether big or small, destroy your quality of life. Never stop loving this life. 

Two days later…I’m STILL smiling!

Much love, Makenzie


Reconciling Stuttering with Boldness

Is it possible to stutter boldly? On the surface, stuttering and boldness seem almost incompatible with one another. We often use the word stuttering in passing to describe the speech of someone who is paralyzed by fear, anxiety, or uncertainty–which, of course, is not the same as stuttering because of a neurological issue. My heart’s desire is to live boldly, never missing a single opportunity to proclaim Christ or to speak life into someone. But is boldness even possible when pauses and hesitations often mark my words? This is the topic I would like to explore today.

Many people who stutter may seem timid or unsure of themselves, merely because of the mannerisms that stuttering  produces. Understandably, a listener may interpret the pauses, hesitations, nervous gestures, and blocks as classic signs that the speaker lacks confidence both in himself and in his message. While people who stutter often do struggle with underlying insecurity, this assumption is not necessarily true for everyone. A person who stutters may be bold at heart; but the shaky words seem to transform the message in his heart from one of boldness into one of timidity on the way out, leaving him wondering if his words even reflected what was really in his heart. If I had to pick the most confusing aspect of stuttering, I think it would be how it affects the world’s perception of your message.

Stuttering is a constant battle between two identities~the person you are inside and the person people sometimes perceive you to be. Stuttering might make an extroverted person at heart seem shy or a confident person seem somewhat timid. However, I ultimately have an important choice to make. I can choose either to hide behind my stutter or to humbly praise the Lord for it, embrace it, and be who He really made me to be.

This is where the whole idea of stuttering boldly comes in. I am naturally a shy person, but I have often let stuttering silence me much more than just my quiet nature alone ever would have. Sadly, when I let my stutter silence me, I am choosing to be a victim of something that I believe in my heart God intended for good. I become so worried about how I sound that I let precious opportunities to be bold for Christ or to reach out to someone slip through my fingers. Only as I continue to cultivate humble gratitude and acceptance in my heart for my stutter will I be able to speak boldly.

Stuttering boldly is all about stuttering openly with a peace of mind that can only come from the Lord. It is about being okay with your words not always coming out the first time. I am not 100% there yet, but it definitely takes some time. When I get my first job, I will have to learn how to confidently ask questions, talk to customers, and express concerns, most likely stuttering on words here and there the whole time. But with boldness from the Lord flowing through my words, stuttering does not have to weaken the message.

Living with a stutter requires you to redefine what boldness means. Maybe… true boldness is more about what we say than how we say it. God can take any message, no matter how feebly delivered, and use it for His glory.

I once watched a video of someone who smiled the whole time they stuttered. That image has never left me. To me, that is one of the most beautiful pictures of stuttering boldly I have ever seen.

Much love, Makenzie